Tomorrow from London’s York Hall, streaming live on ESPN+ at 3 pm ET in the US, and airing on Sky Sports in the UK, the first of MTK Global’s three “Golden Contract” tournaments kicks off from York Hall, with the featherweights in first round action.
One of the gimmicks of the tournament is that the fighters don’t know who they’ll be facing until fight week in this opening round, which you can choose to believe or not, but either way the first round fights are set.
British champion Ryan Walsh (24-2-2, 11 KO) will take on Cuba’s Hairon Socarras (22-0-3, 14 KO). Obviously Walsh’s British title is not on the line.
Walsh, 33, is a solid domestic/European level featherweight. He’s held the British title since winning it in Sept. 2015, making six successful defenses. He last lost in Oct. 2016, though, when he dropped a split decision to Dennis Ceylan on the road in Denmark, which was a fight for the vacant European title.
Socarras, 26, is a Cuban but not a Cuban — he came to the US at age 11 so he wasn’t some great Cuban amateur or anything like that. He’s probably best known for being signed up to fight Shakur Stevenson earlier this year, which then did not happen.
Commonwealth champion Leigh Wood (22-1, 12 KO) will face Ireland’s Davey Oliver Joyce (11-0, 8 KO) in what is probably the best of the first round matchups.
Wood, 31, lost a British title fight at 122 to Gavin McDonnell back in 2014, but has rattled off 11 straight victories. He won the Commonwealth belt in March, knocking out a disinterested Abraham Osei Bonsu, and defended successfully in May against Ryan Doyle in Walsh’s hometown of Nottingham.
Joyce, 32, was a good amateur, winning gold three times at the European Union Championships (2008, 2009, 2014), and competing at Rio 2016, where he won his first round matchup but lost to Azerbaijan’s Albert Selimov in the round of 16. He turned pro in June 2017 and has done well, but he’s a bit old for a prospect, obviously, and time’s ticking if he wants to make a real dent.
Young veteran Jazza Dickens (27-3, 11 KO) will face Carlos Ramos (11-1, 7 KO) in the third matchup. Or I guess it could be the second or first or fourth.
Dickens, 28, is a former British super bantamweight champion. He got the call to challenge Guillermo Rigondeaux for the WBA title at 122 in July 2016, and had his jaw broken in two rounds. He returned about 10 months later and lost his British belt to Thomas Patrick Ward by technical decision, after which he moved up in weight. He’s 5-0 since those two losses, most recently beating Nathaniel May by decision in July.
Ramos, 24, was born in Ecuador and is based in Spain. His loss came in his lone trip to the States, a decision defeat to Irvin Gonzalez in Sept. 2018 in Oklahoma on a ShoBox card.
The final matchup for Friday will say the colorful Tyrone McCullagh (13-0, 6 KO) of Derry, Northern Ireland, take on late replacement Razaq Najib (11-3, 2 KO) of Sheffield.
McCullagh, 29, is a southpaw nicknamed “White Chocolate,” who turned pro in July 2015. His last three wins have seen him ostensibly step up the competition a bit, 10-round decisions over Joe Ham, Josh Kennedy, and Alvaro Rodriguez.
Najib, 25, is just a guy who’s getting a crack. He’s fought pretty much exclusively on smaller shows thus far, and hasn’t really beaten much of anyone. He did face the aforementioned Carlos Ramos on June 22 in Spain, losing a wide 12-round decision. He’s replacing Carlos Araujo, who pulled out due to illness.
All four fights are set for 10 rounds, and Bad Left Hook will be here on Friday afternoon with live coverage.